New Study Examines the Impact of Social Media Campaigns, and it’s Good News for Advertisers

In news that is sure to delight those in the digital marketing industry, an in-depth new study conducted by Kantar Millward Brown and Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, which sought to examine the effectiveness of social media campaigns in terms of metrics including brand awareness, perception, and customers’ motivation to buy, has found that campaigns which were run on Facebook and Instagram had a mostly-positive impact.

The researchers assert that the study is “unique” due to the depth of analysis used, combing through Kantar data regarding a total of 235 campaigns across 110 separate brands for the Facebook and Instagram arm of the report alone. While the report did incorporate data from global campaigns, most of those included ran in the US, UK, and Canada; 49% of the 235 campaigns were run on Facebook exclusively, 48% made use of both Facebook and Instagram, and just 3% ran on Instagram alone.

“Most campaigns that ran on Facebook and Instagram had a positive outcome on brand saliency, associations and motivations for consumers,” stated Professor Andrew Stephen, Associate Dean of Research and L’Oréal Professor of Marketing at the Saïd Business School, University of Oxford.

There were found to be few recorded cases of campaigns which had no effect at all on customer perception, although some did admittedly have a negative impact overall. It is the considerable difference of up to 35% between the most- and least-effective of the analysed campaigns which is most telling however, as it shows that content and style do in fact have a remarkable impact on how a customer will ultimately react to an online campaign.

In an effort to understand the factors which contributed to this sizeable difference in effectiveness, Prof. Stephen and his team at Saïd Business School first eliminated factors including; the format type, number of ad units, number of creative types, industry, geography, and the recorded disparity between Facebook as a sole platform vs. Facebook and Instagram used in unison, from the equation.
“None of these variables significantly explained the differences we were seeing in campaign effectiveness, so we decided to examine a hypothesis that it was the brand’s behaviour that made a difference,” explained Prof. Stephen.

“We did natural language processing on texts from the brands’ owned media on Facebook, and classified each brand as to whether they were more personable, emotional and/or functional.”
The team subsequently found that brands classified as being more personable and emotional yet less functional, i.e. more human, had a more positive impact in regards to brand awareness; this ‘human-like’ behaviour however had little to no correlation with brand association or motivation to buy, although Prof. Stephen speculates that these factors may be indirectly impacted.

The team also scoured through Kantar’s database of 8,811 global campaigns run over the past seven years in order to ascertain the difference in effectiveness between desktop and mobile platforms in terms of brand lift.

“We found that desktop has a constant 2-4% impact on effectiveness. Mobile, on the other hand really spiked in the earlier days but with the maturity of the medium, it’s now basically the same level as desktop,” said Prof. Stephen.

“This decline is either organic, as people get more familiar with the platform and it loses novelty, or commercial environment forces change,” added Jane Ostler, Managing Director of Media and Digital at Kantar Millward Brown.

When asked point-blank if he thought social and digital advertising was worth the time and money spent on it, Stephen replied, “Yes, but a cautious yes. I think it’s good for advertisers to experiment with any different kind of media channel. Plus you need to be where your consumers are.”

Ms Osler said in conclusion, “We’ve found that consumers do have expectations of campaigns based on the formats used and they are quite sensitive in their reactions to it. And of course, none of these campaigns run in isolation, they are contributing to a broader cross-media execution.”

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